Mo Hair, Mo Problems

by | November 6, 2011
filed under Feminism, Pop Culture

This article was originally posted at the WAM! (Women, Action, & the Media) blog. Cross-posted with the permission of WAM! and author Jessica Critcher.

Now that October and breast cancer awareness month are over, gents are stepping up for some cancer awareness as well. Movember, aka No Shave November, is that special time of year when men band together to grow mustaches and beards to raise awareness and funds to stop prostate cancer. According to Movember.com:

[In November,] these selfless and generous men, known as Mo Bros, groom, trim and wax their way into the annals of fine moustachery. Supported by the women in their lives, Mo Sistas, Movember Mo Bros raise funds by seeking out sponsorship for their Mo-growing efforts.

While the overlying theme of cancer awareness is wonderful, there are a few things about this mustache movement I find upsetting.

Firstly, as the Ms. Magazine blog points out, there is not an equal space for women to participate in the movement. According to some of the Twitter feedback, they shouldn’t even think about participating.

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Maybe it’s because this is a men’s health issue, and they don’t want us femme-ing it up. As childish as that is, it would at least make a small bit of sense.

But no, the unprovoked hostility toward women, from men and women alike, stems from a bizarre repulsion for women’s body hair. Men’s health isn’t even a factor.

What about my nasty?Their disgust at the thought of women not shaving often supersedes their concerns for spelling and grammar. Ms. Magazine prompts us all to ask the question: Why are women expected to shave while men are not?

This is clearly the work of our longtime foe, the double standard. Several people, catching sight of my underarm or leg hair, have asked me why I don’t shave or, condescendingly, when I’m going to get around to it. Women’s bodies produce hair just like men’s do. It starts with puberty as we begin to enter adulthood. I find it very frustrating that we are accused with allegations of manliness for displaying signs that we are mature, adult women. What (and at this point I am usually told to calm down) is so threatening about my acknowledgement of my own adulthood? Clearly, a great deal.

Apparently women are only allowed to raise awareness for cancer (or advertise the fact that they are adults) in terms of conventional attractiveness. I am referring of course to theconsumer-driven, cancer-sexualizing breast cancer awareness movements, which reduce women and their worth to a pair of breasts. In a weird cross-over between “going pink” and Movember, The Canadian Cancer Society even suggested women get bikini waxes to support cervical cancer awareness.

My grandmother is a breast cancer survivor. I hate cancer.  But I also cannot stand to see women objectified. Why must movements seeking to end cancer do so at the expense of reducing women to sex objects? Cancer is not sexy. Nothing about any type of cancer, regardless of the body part afflicted, should be erotic or risqué. Movember proves this, because the focus is on raising money and growing mustaches instead of any mention of the “male g-spot.”

While I support the spirit at the heart of Movember, I’m pretty miffed at the existence of another bro’s only club. As of now I’m starting my own movement to raise awareness about sexism called No Shaving Ever.


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  • Sarah

    I, for one, think I could bring home a sizeable trophy in the “patterns shaved into leg hair” category.

    But seriously, why? So men get to participate in breast cancer “awareness” (primarily via encouraging female friends to talk about bras on Facebook, it would seem),but women can’t participate in prostate cancer stuff? Feh.

    • Colin

      I actually thought of the stupid Facebook memes, and remembered how women were supposed to keep the themes behind what they were doing a secret. Men weren’t really able to participate in that one.

      Neither this nor the “awareness” campaign have anything to do with fixing problems; they’re both people playing games and pretending that they’re fighting cancer.

  • Graeme

    This isn’t about not shaving during November. It’s about growing a moustache. You actually have to start with a clean-shaven face.

    It has absolutely nothing to do with leg or underarm hair.

    If you, as a woman, can grow a moustache, please join in.

  • Comment

    This comment has been removed because it violates the Gender Focus comment policy. If you wish to re-comment please feel free to do so while observing the guidelines of the policy.

    • Justin

      This comment has been removed because it violates the Gender Focus comment policy. If you wish to re-comment please feel free to check out the comment policy and do so without personal attacks and swear words.

    • Equalitist

      It’s amazing to me that a comment like “all men hate women [and] want to keep them down” remains visible on a feminist blog while a reply to it is removed for violating the forum terms:

      “The editor may also remove homophobic, sexist, racist comments or otherwise offensive comments”

      • jarrahpenguin

        Thanks for pointing that one out – I missed it and will remove.

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  • http://alagarconniere.wordpress.com julia

    i wish i had seen this earlier! it’s just come to my attention now, but i had a post about similar conundrums up at my blog. great post. http://alagarconniere.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/expecting-a-bit-mo-from-movember/

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  • David

    I agree with Graeme, if ladies can join in the moustacherry then please feel free to as it’s all for a good cause.

    I also think that the opinion of the few that you’ve focused on is a bit cynical and only to prove your point. I mean I personally got ridiculed in university once by a group of women because I wanted to take part in their breast cancer event, claiming why should I care? it’s “not like you can get it”. The ignorance of a few doesn’t merit the belittlement of the many who do these things without you slamming some gender stereotype on us.

  • Deepnet Operative

    Although the hostility is a little much, Movember is about moustaches and not about abstaining from shaving in general. If a women is capable of growing a moustache, they are free to participate, if not, please don’t warp what the event is actually about.

  • Dan

    Well said Deepnet and David. This is about mustaches and facial hair, which are typically male features in order to bring about awareness for a male problem. But if woman want to grow a mustache or wear a fake one, then 100% please join in. Similarly, any men that can grow breasts should do so for Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

  • Equalitist

    Funny, this is the first I hear of a general trend of women being excluded from Movember. Indeed the official organization welcomes them, as do the overwhelming majority of men associated with it. For example, I’m sure one could come up with examples of women who feel that men have no place discussing women’s health issues. Right?

  • John

    Please ungroom yourselves, so I can focus my attention to feminine women, and not waste my time.

    This website is one, long, whiny list of what appears to be a hellish case of the monthlies.

    “Women wearing skirts?!? How dare they!”

    “Men actually expect us to be a different gender? How absurd!”

    This is way to whacked out for me, and these people are far too broken.